Before I am flying to Scotland to meet up with most of the other Malt Maniacs for the 15th Anniversary, I am going to review three Cragganmore, another underrated distillery with a herbal and fresh profile that delivers good drams at a medium age and displays wood influences quickly. It was a Cragganmore that worked best with the beer finish, if you remember that crazy stunt (click here). There might not be many stellar Craggies but a number of decent ones (like this one, click here). Those three should be fun:
1) Cragganmore 1999 – 10.2011 Malts of Scotland, Bourbon Hogshead MoS 11012, 55,1%
Comment: A lot of Bourbon cask character welcomes you here in this dark dram, big white oak, tropical fruit (pineapple) and sweet vanilla – almost an American nose. There is not much distillery character left, indeed have I never encountered such a huge Bourbon influence in a Scotch. This is Scourbon (or Bourtch). I am also getting rising dough and some honey. How is the taste of this mid-atlantic dram? Well, a lot like a fine Bourbon with hints of Scotch. Water makes it more accessible and complex, but not different in style. One more to put down to experience, not bad at all, just very…Southern. Drink that one with a chicken-fried steak.
2) Cragganmore 12 y.o. Scotch Malt Whisky Society 2.1999 – 2011, SMWS 37.49, Refill Bourbon Hogshead, 248 btl., 54,2%
Comment: Brighter than its predecessor. It reveals a nice complexity on the herbal side, also many tropical fruits (tangerines, grapefruit, peaches, passion fruit), dry malt and whiffs of sawdust. Behind these lead aromas I can find almond oil and reminiscences of a fat Riesling Auslese from Baden. On the palate it has a wonderful balance, everything is there and in place, no water is necessary in this oily dram. It develops into a ‚fruitcakey‘ direction and finishes really well, no offnotes, just plain good malt.
3) Cragganmore 21 y.o. The First Editions 1989 – 2011, Refill Bourbon Hogshead, 268 btl., 55,4%
Comment: Again, a different profile, fragile, well-balanced and Chardonnay-like – more typical of the distillery as herbs come through as well in amazing complexity (quite mediterranean and minty overall). There also is grass, malt, lemon zest, pear (with blue cheese), peach and a trace of vanilla pod. It tastes less fragile as the nose would suggest – good grip on malt, herbs and wood. Water makes it more elegant. A good pick.